All Good Things Must End: A statement from Jeremy Szal

As of today, 20th of January 2020, I am stepping down from being the fiction editor-in-chief and producer of StarShipSofa.

I delayed doing this as long as I could. For almost two years, in fact, but it’s come to this inevitable write-up.

I joined StarShipSofa’s ranks as an assistant editor back in 2014, when I was a 19 year-old scribbler still traipsing around university with a handful of short fiction pieces that only dated a few months back. My gateway into editing was being second in command of one of the biggest short fiction podcasts in fandom.

To say I’d was thrown into the deep-end of shark-infested editorial waters is an understatement. But I got by, in no small thanks to Tony C. Smith. Over the years, I watched it grow by almost 5,000 additional downloads per week. I made an effort to double, and then triple our staff size. I instigated the decision to open for unsolicited submissions for the first time, kickstarted the idea of running translated fiction, casting our narrator nets out to the archipelagos of film, television and voice acting. All in all, my editing days ran from episode 360 through to episode 600. That’s 240 weeks of short fiction. Given at least half had multiple stories, that’s up to 360 stories: edited, produced, and uploaded by me.

I assign myself credit for doing this because none of these things would have gotten off the ground if Tony hadn’t given me creative freedom to do whatever I wanted on the show. None breathing down my neck, telling me what to play. What we couldn’t play. Authors we couldn’t run. Types of stories we couldn’t use. Nothing of the sort. Total command of the ship was mine as far as fiction went, and I could steer it in whatever star systems I so desired. That meant I acted as editor and producer for stories for half the folks in the industry. And I do mean half. Including Harlan Ellison, William Gibson, George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb, Kim Stanley Robinson, Alastair Reynolds, Peter Watts, all the usual suspects. And then there was the one time I interviewed the Oscar-winning production designer on Mad Max: Fury Road.
None of that would have happened if Tony didn’t trust me to do my own thing and to do it right. But he did. Even when I didn’t deserve it. Even when I wanted to try something he wasn’t sure about. And I will forever and ever owe him for that. I won’t pretend there weren’t rough patches, or that we butted heads. But for the most part the engines ran smoothly throughout the years. Even when new staff came aboard in 2017-2018, things went well.

But there’s a catch.

See, I was never an editor at heart. I am and always will be a writer. I spent years and years handling other people’s writing and enjoyed it immensely. But it wasn’t what I ultimately wanted to do. And being an editor, particularly for audio format, is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s exhausting. It’s draining. Not going to run through the process and all its shenanigans. Take my word for it that it’s nothing less than a part time job. And I did it because I loved it.

But I love writing more.

When I first came aboard the mighty ship, I told Tony I’d be with him until I got an agent. And in 2017, I did. But I stuck around, because I hadn’t sold my novel yet. I’d kicked around the idea of quitting once or twice, thanks to burnout and real-life issues, but stuck to my guns.

And then in the tail-end of 2018, STORMBLOOD sold to Gollancz. And so did the next two books.

Overnight, I had a book slated for early 2020 and a trilogy to complete.
I think we all knew what was going to happen sooner rather than later. But I didn’t want to let go. Not quite yet. Maybe I could do both. Maybe things would slow down.
I learned pretty quickly in a rather brutal fashion I was delusional.
Sure, I could do both. But I’d be doing an injustice to both parties and the audience they consumed them, with both coming out a shadow of the quality they should be.

If I attempted doing both, I’d stumble out, sideways and on fire, as a withered stump of an overworked and undernourished creator. And remember what I said earlier about my heart being a writer, not an editor?

In the five years I purchased fiction for the show, never once did I play a story when there was a better one on offering. Never once did I sacrifice quality for convenience. I don’t believe that to be ethical, to myself or the very loyal and very deserving audience that has stuck around to tune in, week after week. If I played something, it was because I believed the story had something important to say. And I wasn’t about to start doing that now. A huge chunk of my life went into this show. If the best thing it needed was for me to walk away, so be it.
So I’m doing just that.

The fiction department will be left in the very capable hands of Gary Dowell. I’ll still be around, of course. But my last piece of edited fiction on StarShipSofa was episode 600. The episodes I worked on will always be there, and I hope to revisit them over the years.

It’s been a hell of a wild ride. Knowing that people are tuning in each and every week from Sweden to South Africa made the difficult days easier. Your messages of support and gratitude, it be online, or at conventions is always welcome. To the hundreds of authors, narrators and editors I had the privilege of working with over the things: thank you for inspiring me with your wit, humour, passion and outright love of storytelling and all things science-fiction. Sharing in your talent at and working together was the highlight of my job. There’s something truly special about being a tiny cog in a vast, grand machine, bigger than you, bigger than all of us, running on a burning passion to share our wonderful and weird stories with listeners across the globe. Thank you for trusting in me with your stories. I can only hope I did right by them.

To Harlan Ellison, who yelled at me over the phone when I convinced him to sell us the rights to his story: whenever you are, please don’t kill me.

To Tony, Gary, Kelly, Michael, Lisa, Diane, Amy: thank you for making my editing stint so wonderful. The years went by in a blink. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

Best,
Jeremy Szal

ETA: I’ve had some people ask if there’s anyway to support me, or if I have a Patreon. I don’t. What I do have is a debut novel that’s coming out in just over four months and I would greatly appreciate any pre-orders, pre-purchases or just a purchase at any time. If you’re into space opera and cyberpunk noir, this might be your thing.

UK Amazon
US and international buyers

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